In need of boosting my writing productivity, I’ve been trying out the Pomodoro Technique. You can find more information about the technique here, but I’ve been using the technique in the most simple way: you set a count-down timer for 25 mins., work through this time period on the task at hand, then rest for 5 minutes. After resting, start again. Every time you finish a 25 working cycle, draw a tomato.
I’ve known about this productivity technique for years, but never tried it properly until recently. What didn’t work for me before was I used a timer on iGoogle, so every time I needed to check for references or journal articles, the timer on the screen distracted me. I gave up very quickly.
I remember a friend who completed her PhD saying that the technique really worked for her, so a couple of weeks back I decided to give it another chance. I downloaded a free Pomodoro app for my phone. I also lowered the phone’s volume so that it’s still loud enough for me to hear, but not give me a jolt when the timer goes off.
This time I found the technique surprisingly effective. Because I know there’s going to be a break after 25 mins., I’m able to focus on the thesis better by reminding myself that I can surf on the internet or procrastinate later. It also gives me a great sense of satisfaction to see how many tomatoes I’ve drawn each day. Drawing tomatoes helps me monitor my working hours. I’m not an early riser so I always assumed I was more productive in the afternoon. But I realized that my ideas are actually sharper in the morning so it’s easier to write within the first two hours after I wake up.
25 mins. might not seem like much, but as I accumulated 25 mins. throughout the day, I was surprised at the number of hours I could work on the thesis without distraction. These 25 mins. are like sprinting, so they are quality research and writing time. When I count the tomatoes I’ve worked through the day, it helps to get rid of the guilty feeling wondering whether I’ve written enough.
This method also counters the need to have substantial writing time blocks. It’s always better to have the afternoon or the morning free for writing, but when little tasks like doing the dishes or running errands pop up in between, it can feel as if your writing time is being broken up. I use the Pomodoro technique every time I work on the thesis, so even if I have to leave my work miday, I still have a grasp of how much time I’ve spent on writing.
If I’m finding it really hard to concentrate, I disconnect the internet. I get distracted easier in the afternoons. This is the time when subconsciously I start measuring how much more work I’ve got to do before the end of the day. I lose motivation to do the corrections and have to fight hard to resist procrastination. The gesture of disconnecting the internet itself–unplugging the cable or clicking off the wifi–somehow helps to embed the action into the brain. It’s a bit like quitting a bad habit. So when I want to search for something and find that the internet is off, I remember I’ve turned it off for a reason. Resisting one or two urges to use the internet usually helps me get into full writing mode.
What techniques do you use to boost writing productivity?